At COP28, these young changemakers will steer the climate agenda

A person walks past a "#COP28" sign during The Changemaker Majlis, a one-day CEO-level thought leadership workshop focused on climate action, in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, October 1, 2023. REUTERS/Amr Alfiky
A person walks past a "#COP28" sign. At COP28, more than 100 World Economic Forum Global Shapers will continue their work advocating fighting climate change and advocating for climate justice.
Image: REUTERS/Amr Alfiky
  • Global Shapers spanning 500 cities globally have impacted millions of lives worldwide, with many projects focused on climate change.
  • At COP28 in Dubai, more than 100 Shapers will continue that work.
  • The Global Shapers, an initiative of the World Economic Forum, has a dedicated taskforce helping them to deliver maximum impact through their projects.

Inaugurated in 2011, the World Economic Forum's Global Shapers Community, made up of changemakers spanning over 500 cities. Through localized projects, this community has impacted on over 2 million lives worldwide, with 600 projects dedicated to preserving our planet. As we look ahead to COP28, their commitment to this vital work remains unwavering.

COP27 in Sharm-El-Sheikh was a milestone with the first-ever Youth Pavilion, recognizing youth-led solutions. 90 Global Shapers played pivotal roles in that, including at the negotiation table. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s (UNFCCC) Global Youth Statement representing voices from 149 countries calls for youth inclusion in climate governance.

Building on the work of COP27, Global Shapers will continue to advocate for inclusive solutions at COP28 in Dubai, tackling crucial themes such as energy transition, biodiversity, health and technological innovation, all rooted in the principles of climate justice. Their dedication underscores the importance of collaboration and collective action in addressing our global climate challenges.

The Shapers making an impact at COP28

This year, we will see the participation of over 100 Shapers supported by the COP28 Taskforce. The taskforce consists of Shapers with extensive expertise in climate and nature, representing diverse backgrounds from the public, private and civil society sectors. Here is a snapshot of their work:

'I grew up in Dubai, energized by a city whose constant is change'

Razann Al Ghussein, Curator, Dubai Hub

The Dubai Hub is focused on empowering change-makers by hosting youth climate education workshops. We co-organized the Dubai Local Conference of Youth (LCOY) falling under the activities of YOUNGO, the official Children and Youth Constituency of the UNFCCC and serves as a vital space for dialogue and capacity-building. LCOYs aim to localize the climate conversation and capture local perspectives fed into the Conference of Youth and consequently into climate negotiations. Other Hubs also organized LCOYs this year in Bahrain, Botswana, Brazil, Samoa, Saudi Arabia and South Africa — a testament to the community’s ability to drive positive change.

As a climate consultant, I work at the intersection of environmental responsibility and business innovation by guiding regional businesses to decarbonize and set science-based emission reduction targets. It is imperative that the private sector innovates and transforms to meet the net zero and nature-positive transition. I grew up in Dubai, energized by a city whose constant is change. I am optimistic that the UAE will continue evolving to mitigate and adapt to climate challenges.

'I am proud of the achievements of our Hub embodying the Shaper spirit — marked by selflessness, generosity and drive'

Ahmed Mazlom – Global Shaper, Dubai Hub

I am proud of the achievements of our Hub embodying the Shaper spirit — marked by selflessness, generosity and drive — which are evident in our contributions across environmental preservation, sustainability advocacy and knowledge-sharing.

I specialize in international investment arbitration, international commercial arbitration and public international law. I conducted pro bono research for a major environmental non-governmental organization on their plastics treaty programme and focus on plastics regulation legislation across various jurisdictions, with a specific emphasis on the Middle East North Africa region. Ultimately, the purpose of the research is to feed into and advise small and developing states on negotiations for a new treaty to end plastic pollution.

'Young people are not just participants in climate action but are capable of leading and influencing global climate policy'

Marie-Claire Graf – Global Shaper, Zurich Hub

Being a part of the #GenerationRestoration Youth Hub, I see nature as a resilient ally, not just a resource. This is why I co-founded the Young Negotiators Programme, a platform that has been instrumental in transforming the landscape of climate negotiations. At COP26 and COP27, the programme empowered over 60 youth negotiators from 27 countries, with the skills, confidence and support to become fully-fledged climate negotiators. These young leaders, with first-hand experiences of climate change impacts, brought a new level of engagement and perspective to the discussions.

The programme's approach of signing Memorandums of Understanding with the governments of the youth participants ensures essential support and buy-in from their respective countries. This strategic move legitimized the role of young negotiators and underscored the critical need for intergenerational collaboration in addressing climate challenges. Our success at past COPs sets an encouraging precedent, demonstrating that young people are not just participants in climate action but are capable of leading and influencing global climate policy.

'Our community’s emphasis on the nexus of climate and nature is vital'

Tariq Al-Olaimy – Foundation Board Member & Manama Hub Alumni

Our community’s emphasis on the nexus of climate and nature is vital. I’m proud to serve as an Advisory Board Member for the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, led by UNEP and FAO, where the UN Decade aims to reverse the destruction of Earth's life-support systems. The Decade connects with the movement building work of #GenerationRestoration’s Youth Hub, convened by 1t.org , a global community of restoration practitioners, many of whom are Global Shapers.

COP28 will host the first-ever ministerial dialogue on water-resilient food systems. Transforming our food systems to feed 10 billion people within planetary boundaries is a global challenge intertwining health, nature, climate and inequality. Yet food systems solutions also hold the key to these challenges. EAT, where I serve as an advisory board member, is at the forefront of these science-based food system transformation approaches at COP28.

'Our inclusion at the table should come as an equal partner'

Neeha Mujeeb – Alumni, Dubai Hub

I am a public sector advisor and author of ‘Climate Middle East.’ With my Hub, I ran several initiatives focused on inclusion for women, children and blue-collar workers — a topic that is becoming more important in the climate conversation. The Middle East North Africa region is often discussed in the climate debate in terms of perpetrators or victims — our historically oil-based economies, the perpetrators, those affected by floods and droughts, the victims. I see the hosting of COP27 and COP28 in MENA as an opportunity for the narrative to evolve and for our region to become the problem solvers that supercharge the climate movement.

I hope to highlight our investments in climate solutions and commitments to net zero, our potential for exporting clean energy and our region’s indigenous knowledge of architecture and agriculture; key to the next wave of breakthroughs the world is looking for. Our inclusion at the table should come as an equal partner in building solutions that are suited for the region’s economic, political and social landscapes. The UAE’s leadership always said that we will be the first to celebrate the last barrel of oil we sell, and we hope the world acknowledges that and celebrates with us.

What is a Global Shaper?

The Global Shapers Community is a network of young people under the age of 30 who are working together to drive dialogue, action and change to address local, regional and global challenges.

The community spans more than 8,000 young people in 165 countries and territories.

Teams of Shapers form hubs in cities where they self-organize to create projects that address the needs of their community. The focus of the projects are wide-ranging, from responding to disasters and combating poverty, to fighting climate change and building inclusive communities.

Examples of projects include Water for Life, a effort by the Cartagena Hub that provides families with water filters that remove biological toxins from the water supply and combat preventable diseases in the region, and Creativity Lab from the Yerevan Hub, which features activities for children ages 7 to 9 to boost creative thinking.

Each Shaper also commits personally and professionally to take action to preserve our planet.

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